Rail journeys: Mike Backhouse

Mike has worked on rail strategy, designs and plans in the UK and Australia and has experienced the heights of rail travel in Switzerland and the speed of it in China. He is truly a ‘worldly’ train expert.

QRail … how did it begin for you?

Last century! My first project was working on the West Coast Route Modernisation in the UK, which links London all the way up to Edinburgh.

I worked for a safety risk consultancy, and they branched out into rail systems engineering and rail planning. So, that was my beginning. And I’ve stayed in rail ever since.

Quick Q&A

Best rail experience?

I travelled up Jungrau in Switzerland. The station at the top – Jungfraujoch – is 3,454 metres above sea level. It’s so high that there’s sort of oxygen deprivation up there. A lot of the train ride is through tunnel – but the destination is awesome.

I’ve also been on the maglev in Shanghai and travelled at something like 400 kilometres per hour!

QWhat’s been your role in the rail sector?

I work in the management consulting, strategy and transformation teams for rail projects.

I’ve been involved in network planning and network design. My work involves looking at what the demand is in terms of number of passengers, convert that into number of services, and then try and work out how we can build a rail network and service offering for the customers.

We’ll start off with conceptual ideas about how a network could operate. Then we’ll progress into more detail once we understand the infrastructure requirements, and the rolling stock requirements, et cetera.

Basically, we set out what needs to be done so that you can then build a business case and take that forward through the project development lifecycle.

One of my recent projects was working on the preliminary evaluation of the proposed Salisbury to Beaudesert rail corridor in South East Queensland.

QWhat are the trends in network planning and design?

Integrated transport offerings are definitely more of a focus now. We look for opportunities for the rail network to be part of an integrated public transport network – whether that’s buses, trams, taxis, ubers, e-scooters, that type of thing.

Things like Google show us options for how we can move from A to B – by walking or taking a train or bus, or a combination of all three.

It means people have great opportunities to use public transport in a way that works for them.

Train travel up Jungrau in Switzerland.

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